Kitchens: A coach for the generations

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It could be said that the Troy Junior Dixie Boys World Series run has been something of a family affair.

Most of the players on this year’s team have family members who have played for head coach Sam Kitchens at some point in the past.

At any time, Kitchens can look into the stands and see as many as 10 of his former players cheering on both their former coach and their loved ones.

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“Oh, it’s a great thing,” Kitchens said. “It’s nice to come out to the field every day and see all of these familiar faces.”

Five of the players have fathers who played either regular season recreation league baseball or played on tournament teams for Kitchens in their younger days.

Kevin and Brian Adams, Buford and John Michael Stephens, Bradley and Miles Loving, Larry and Morgan Shaver and Michael and Blake Craft are the father-son duos that have been fortunate enough to experience this year’s World Series with both each other and their coach.

Blake Craft even gets to share that with both his father and his stepfather. Blake’s stepfather, Paul Scarbrough, also played for Kitchens as a youngster.

It isn’t just fathers, however. Craft’s uncle, Jonathan Neeley, also played for Kitchens.

Chandler Avant also has multiple family connections to Kitchens. Avant’s uncle, Chris Avant, played for Kitchens, as did his brother, Chase Avant.

Kitchens said he has sometimes had a sense of déj vu while coaching this year’s team.

“You know, everybody’s a different player, but in a lot of ways, some of these guys remind me of their family members that I’ve coached in the past,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens also said the young family members of his former players help to remind him of the days when he coached the people who are spectators in Enterprise this week.

“It’s easy to look out there and watch these kids play and remember that the people who are sitting in the stands watching them were all good athletes in their younger days,” Kitchens said.

However, the most important aspect of the family ties has been the warm feeling Kitchens associates with all of his former players that he has managed to keep in contact with.

“It sure does my heart good to come out here and see all these faces,” Kitchens said. “It’s nice to have people come up and shake your hand or have people come up and hug your neck. It’s just strange to think about all these people whose lives you’ve impacted that still remember you after all this time.”

Kitchens’ current and former players will be on hand in Enterprise Thursday to watch the Junior Dixie Boys try to bring home a World Series championship.